Happy gaming Christmas everybody. It's E3 week, with all the latest gaming announcements, hype, and footage coming to us from the expo's home in LA. The fun has already begun with conferences from EA and Bethesda, with teases of new Star Wars games, a FIFA game with an actual story, our first look at Mass Effect: Andromeda, Quake Champions, Skyrim: Special Edition and Prey with plenty more to come.
Microsoft's press conference doesn't start until 5.30pm, so until then check out these swanky apps.
Android: Fast - FB Alternative Client (Free)
Now, those of you who've been paying attention will know that Facebook doesn't want you sending messages to your friends unless you have the Messenger app. What if there was another way, a better way, to let you check Facebook and message people without having to download a billion apps? Fast is one option, though that's not exactly what it's designed for.
At its core, Fast is meant to be a slimmed down version of Facebook that also offers a number of customisation options. The added benefit is that it also includes a version of the site that looks identical to the mobile site – including Messenger. So there's a bonus. It's no good for people who hate the idea of having any Facebook apps installed, but for everyone who hates being forced to download multiple apps Fast is ideal.
But that's not all. As I said, Fast is designed to be customisable and I don't just mean little things like colour. You opt to open links within the app or not, change how much bandwidth it's going to use, and so on. It's also got PIN security, to prevent people from opening it up and making untrue claims about your personal life.
The main feature, though, is that you can create your own personal feed of articles from the net. A list that you can read through, organise, and share to your timeline. So it's a bit like Facebook had a baby with the baby of Pocket – just without any sort of offline feature (that I could see anyway).
So it's Facebook, just without Facebook forcing pointless crap onto you. Plus your own reading list.
You should also try:
Flower VPN Premium: Another VPN to add to your collection, though this one promises encryption to keep your browsing away from the snooping eyes of the government. Just excuse the broken English. [Free]
PhyWiz: Suck at physics? No problem. This app will do all the hard work for you. It'll answer problems, take you through everything step-by-step, and help you out with practice questions. [Free]
Quip Sphere: What if Twitter used voice clips instead of text? That's basically what Quip Sphere is, letting you share short audio clips of your inner-most thoughts and musings. [Free]
iPhone: Mixatron (Free)
I want you to think about Instagram, or more specifically how you'd describe it to someone who's never heard of it before. I imagine a lot of you would say that it's a tool for adding filters to your photos, then uploading them for the world to see. Mixatron (from the people at Funny or Die), is similar in concept. It lets you add special 'filters' over the top of your videos to jazz them up a bit, before sharing via social media.
It's pretty simple. You record videos of yourself and your friends (using either of your phone's cameras), and once you're done you can add one of nine filters to make things more interesting. It's not just changing the visual tone, mind, it actually adds a lot more. It changes the video's entire style, as if it had gone through some weird post-production to get there. Comic-ifying your video, for instance, makes it look as though your video was created in pop art style. Pixel pixelates things, and so on.
It's pretty simple in what it does but if you ever wanted to make your videos slightly more interesting for people then you have another tool at your disposal. One that is basically effortless.
You should also try:
Swysh: This one lets you take control of your music playback with hand gestures. Just wave your hand over your phone the correct way, and you're good to go. [£0.79]
Live Focus: No need to worry about focusing here, since Live Focus is all about shooting first and sorting out the focus later. [£1.49]
Cleanz: A nice minimalist app that lets you sort through your photo roll easily and quickly. [£0.79]
iPad: BBC Sport (Free)
It's a big summer for sport this year. Just like it is every two years. Also the Olympics are happening soon. Regardless, if you're a fan of sport you're going to need a way to keep on top of all the news. Even more so if you happen to like lots of stuff. Luckily the BBC Sport app has updated to help you in your quest for sport-related knowledge.
Opening up the latest version of the app immediately offers to help you keep on top of the ongoing Euro 2016 tournament, letting you set up alerts for all the teams you want to follow. Picking a team lets you get notifications for line-ups, kick-off times, goals, and results and both half or full time. You can add as many teams as you like here, as long as you're willing to get notifications for every single one.
Also available to anyone who signs up for a BBC ID is the 'My Sport' page, which has just been updated to included content specifically related to the Euros and Rio 2016. This is pretty simple to sort through. You're given a list of topics from all over the world of sport, and tapping each one adds them to your list of sports. Once you're done, My Sport will update your personal feed with relevant stories based on those topics. It's just like using the rest of the app, just without having to sift through the stuff you couldn't care less about.
It's here that I heard UEFA has threatened Russia and England with disqualification if any more violence occurred. Russian and English football fans fighting. Who would have guessed that would happen? But I digress.
As I said it's a big year, and you're going to want to keep on top of things. The BBC Sport app looks like a great way to do it – especially if you're trying to stay on top of all things football related over the next month.
You should also try:
Amount Plus (Update): An incredibly extensive unit conversion app, with over 700 compatible units over 30 categories. Now it's had an update that includes bit of a design change, better animations, the option to change units in your notification bar, and more. [£2.29]
Workflow (Update): The incredible automation tool for iOS now has integration with IFTTT, opening up a whole new world of possibilities. [£2.29]
Windows Mobile: Spoticast for Spotify (£3.89)
Why bother with Spotify? The official client I mean. The Windows Mobile app doesn't get updated nearly as often as the iOS and Android apps, and there still isn't a universal Windows 10 app. Why not change it up for something a bit more fully featured, with dedicated developer support? Try Spoticast, from the same people that made the Tubecast YouTube client.
One of the interesting things about Spoticast is that when you open up your playlists and try to play a song, it actually lets you play the video instead. You'd think it would be rather complicated to switch, but no. All you need to is hit the button next to the play controls and you'll instantly switch to the other format. It restarts the song, but you can't have everything.
It's worth pointing out that not all of these songs have official videos, and it looks like Spoticast found something comparable on YouTube and embedded them. You can also get some videos in 360-degrees, but you'll need to download the Video 360 app (£1.50) to your phone to make that happen.
That's not all. Spoticast is also a universal app, so you can use the same system across your Windows devices, and is capable of casting both audio and video to various wireless streaming devices. Chromecast, Apple TV, DLNA, Miracast, you name it. It's also got a search function to sift through the Spotify catalogue (naturally), all your playlists are available as soon as you sign in, and there's a page showcasing all the new releases.
There are downsides, though, since Spoticast is basically brand new. There's no offline playback for one, but the dev seems to be working on it. Plus the main Spotify app has a load of other features, like personalised recommendations and tempo-based music to help you exercise. Spoticast doesn't have any of that, since it's just a no-frills music/video player. There are no adverts as far as I can see, though, so from the looks of things you won't be needing that Spotify Premium subscription.
So if you're looking for a Windows-specific Spotify client, there's not much wrong with picking this.
You should also try:
Twitter (Update): The official Twitter app has just added support for polls, and extra features to help you personalise your mobile experience. [Free]
Mirror's Edge Companion: The official companion to the new game Mirror's Edge: Catalyst. It has a full map of the city, can track your in-game progress, customise your experience, and more. [Free]